Which Camera Is the Worst Value for Money?

Which Camera Is the Worst Value for Money?

With a slew of new cameras coming out in recent times, the market has shifted. While there are now some great value options, it means there are also some poorly priced ones too. Which is the worst value camera right now?

There is a trend in the camera industry that I have been distantly tracking for some time: price. When I first got into photography, there were far fewer options when it came to buying a camera body. Similarly, if you wanted a "proper" DSLR, it was going to cost you. The first Canon 5D came out in 2005, and its initial RRP was $3,299. It was a camera for serious photographers and professionals, it was certainly high-end on the spec sheet, and it was priced as such. 15 years later, using an inflation calculator, which estimates the purchasing power of the dollar over time, we can tell that today, that camera would be for sale at roughly $4,450.

The new, coveted Canon R5 is an interesting example of current pricing. It is aimed at more or less the same demographic in 2020 as the original 5D was aimed at in 2005. In fact, you could argue that given the tremendous spec (purported overheating notwithstanding) that it could command a high price or at the very least around the inflation-adjusted 5D price of $4,450. Nevertheless, it is priced at $3,899. Though that's, of course, a lot of money, comparatively — and considering that pace-setting spec — this top-of-the-range mirrorless body is well priced.

In case you're skim reading, I'm not saying the R5 is poor value for money; quite the opposite.

This sort of progression in tech is common. The gains of new products over previous iterations suffer from diminishing returns, the price of production and parts slowly fall, and thus, so does the retail price, usually. So, entry-level or mid-level cameras become more powerful and the price entry point becomes more accessible. But it's the diminishing returns that have created somewhat of an interesting problem that I noticed again this week. New versions of cameras, with often underwhelmingly similar specs, usually don't move much on the retail price of their predecessors. But then comes the dilemma of what to do with the previous model.

Take Fujifilm's X-T4 and their X-T3: an incredibly popular range of cameras and for good reason — they're superb. The differences between them are minimal, however. If you look at various online stores or promotional material, you could be fooled into thinking the X-T4 was the first in Fujifilm's X-Series to be able to shoot UHD 4K at 60 fps; it isn't. The X-T4 has 240 fps slow motion in HD shooting where the X-T3 only had 120 fps, but they could both shoot 4K at 60 fps. There are other differences (5-axis IBIS, articulating LCD screen, autofocus alterations, etc.), but the gap between the two bodies isn't much at all, and this is reflected in the price. The X-T4 goes for $1,699, whereas the X-T3 goes for $1,499. Those extra 200 dollars are undoubtedly strategic rather than on merit. If the X-T3 is priced too low after the new version is released, then spotting how close they are in terms of performance, buyers might just go for the older model. However, priced too close, and they may as well not bother making the X-T3 anymore, and sellers with large stocks might struggle.

There is one side effect of upgrading bodies, however. Sometimes, the upgrades are significant enough that they not only eclipse the previous model technically, but they devalue it too. Many brands seem to shrug this off as par for the course, but some find themselves in a pricing quandary. This week, I believe Leica has landed on that issue, and it has created what I believe to be the worst value camera on the market.

Leica M10

I want to start this by being very clear: I really like Leica. They cop a lot of flak for their prices and their user base and demographic. Yes, they are expensive, but they are also fantastic cameras, singular, built to withstand time and adversity, and designed like works of art. If you have never used one, I urge you to see if you can try a model for a while to really understand why they have the cult following they do. I can't justify being in their ecosystem for the work I do, and they have priced me out of shooting with them for fun, but if I had more disposable income to throw around, I'd likely buy one. This isn't an article taking blind shots at Leica, I assure you. But, the release of their new M10-R has had a bit of an odd consequence.

The new M10-R. Say what you want about the price, it's absolutely beautiful.

The M10-R is for all intents and purposes, identical to the earlier entry in the M-Series, the M10-P, save for one important upgrade: the sensor is now 40.9 megapixels. All previous M10 body variants were 24 megapixels, so the gains here are massive. Furthermore, from early hands-on reviews and reports, the color performance and image quality are equal to or better than the old sensor. Now, as you might expect, it isn't cheap. The M10-R retails for $8,795, which if you are a Leica fan, is probably about what you'd expect, though maybe a touch higher. With the huge jump in resolution with what seems like no downsides, however, choosing the M10-R over the M10-P or original M10 (I'll exclude the M10 Monochrom as that is a singular body for a specific purpose) is an absolute no-brainer. That is, of course, unless the original M10 is now much cheaper.

Well, it isn't. Leica sees themselves as an aspirational, luxury camera brand (and I don't disagree with them), and so, this is where the quandary arises. The original M10 is objectively worse than the M10-R by quite some margin given the latter has a 70% increase in resolution. However, lowering the price of previous M10 models now that the M10-R has been released would damage the brand and the projected value of their products. They must retain the mystique and reputation they have built, and as a result, we are left with what I believe to be the camera which is the worst value for money of any camera currently on the market. The original M10 is $8,000 for a 24-megapixel sensor. This, I'm sure, is tactical to funnel photographers looking into the M-Series into forking out just an extra $300 to upgrade the sensor by 70%, but in isolation, the M10 price point is borderline comical. $8,000 for a 24-megapixel body with a single memory card slot, no GPS, and no IBIS. Yes, Leica isn't pitching its cameras against the rest of the mirrorless market, but either way, the M10 just became the worst deal there is.

Before I am rushed down by Leica fans, please re-read the first paragraph of this section. I have met with Leica at their offices in London several times, used multiple of their cameras, and spoken to everyone from their ambassadors through to their PR team, and I am truly a fan. There's no one else in the industry quite like them, and shooting with their cameras is an experience. The M10-R, I have no doubts, is right up there with some of the best cameras they've produced. But an unfortunate byproduct is that for as long as they're selling earlier M10 models brand new, they are the worst cameras in terms of value for money.

Which Camera Do You Think Is the Worst Value for Money?

What do you think? Am I wrong about the M10-R's predecessors? Is it wrong to even include them in this discussion? Is there a camera that's an even worse bang for your buck? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

The worst camera is the one you did not bring with you, period.

And Leica was always Leica : very expensive gear for very wealthy wallets. Not dismissing its qualities, just a marketing and pricing point of view that always made Leica gears a luxury thing. They fix their pricing for a marketing and storytelling point of view, not from a technical and usage point of view. So why bother ? In a certain way, Leica always been the worst value camera, until you really needed a silent shutter (not really a problem since mirrorless tech), really small but capable camera (but we already have APS-C or MFT) or had tons of money to spent.

Charles Mercier's picture

For a long time, I used Nikon film cameras. Years ago, I borrowed a friend's Leica M3 with a standard Summicron 50. Even when I got back the slides and tiny photos.... wow. What a noticeable difference! There was no competition between the two. Period.

Deleted Account's picture

I hope you understand why that's difficult to believe.

John Nixon's picture

Only if you’ve never used a Leics M with a 50mm Summicron.
I have had Nikon, Olympus and Leica R but in the mid-1990s I had 1959 Leica M3 with a 5cm Summicron Collapsible and 9cm Elmar lenses, both made in 1953 and they produced incredible images.

Deleted Account's picture

I have no doubts about your experiences and can easily believe one lens is better than another. "No competition between the two", however, is difficult to believe without your listing the lens(es) used on the Nikon; bodies, of course, having very negligible impact on the photos.

Michael Dougherty's picture

I would like to try some Elmar and Elmarit lenses on my Z7 some day.

Deleted Account's picture

Having no experience with them, I have nothing to say about that.

Charles Mercier's picture

Nikon FM with Nikkor 50mm 1.8 AI-S and their 105mm 2.5 that I had been using for decades. It's all on film and I don't have any high quality scanners to download to digital. Of course, the quality of the Nikon was excellent but the slides of the Leica were much more vibrant and sharp. I took photos of the same places because I only had one day with my friend's camera and I wanted to take photos that I knew were good ones.

Deleted Account's picture

Same film?

Charles Mercier's picture

In 25-30 years with the same Nikon camera/lenses, I used Kodachrome, Ektachrome, 100, 200, 400asa film from Kodak and Fuji. I was pretty damn familiar with what my Nikon was capable of.

Deleted Account's picture

I was asking if you typically used the same film in the Nikon and the Leica. While a lens can certainly improve vibrancy, film has a much greater impact.

Charles Mercier's picture

I just dug up the Leica slides and some older nikon slides. I stand by my statement. Have you ever compared Leica images directly before your criticisms?

Deleted Account's picture

I'm not criticizing anything. I'm not saying the Summacron isn't better than the Nikkors. I'm only questioning the *degree* to which it's better. To answer your question, I've seen great and not so great photos from lots of different cameras and lenses but never performed any kind of comparison or even seen such a comparison. And my original statement stands, as well.

Venson Stein's picture

50mm Summicron would kick any Nikon lens' ass, twenty ways til Sunday. And Nikon made some of the best lenses on the market. And I shoot Nikon for Digital.

Deleted Account's picture

I am NOT questioning its superiority. I'm questioning the degree of superiority, especially given the characteristics and limitations of film. Hyperbole, like that, is exactly what I doubt.

Charles Mercier's picture

Um, insisting on your opinion/belief with zero experience doesn't carry much validity. You're arguing against two people who have.

Deleted Account's picture

I'm not insisting on anything, I'm questioning. And neither of you has presented anything to support your opinions which, admittedly have value but do nothing to answer my questions. If you're not interested in answering, and there's no reason you should, move along. If you're wanting me to just take your word for, well... anything, that's not going to happen.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

Time changed.
We are since 2002 in the digital age.
nikon, canon, fuji and lens makers like tamron, sigma, tokina, zeiss and whoever are available.

Leica was always known and reknowned for their excellent lenses, with their famous silent cameras.
They costed tons of money, like Mamiya MF gear. And Leica managed to keep their specific look in final pic through the ages.

But I doubt you can actually tell the difference between a Canon/Nikon/Sony dSLR with excellent lens, ala Zeiss or top of the line own manufacturer lenses, vs a Leica digital with Leica lens.
Of course, you can get some lens behaviour that suits better that shot or this one, but in the end, the Leica age of glory is gone, and since they almost missed the digital age shift many years ago they lost it even further at the point it almost got wiped out by shareholders !

In the film era, you have to admit Leica was already a rich guy tool, but of course, with very excellent gear + exceptionnal lenses, with excellent "result" when you known how to use it.

Canikon was a cheaper system, that gave far better results than automatic P&S cameras, with good to excellent lenses.
Exceptionnal lenses were just very expensive when they existed for Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta, Olympus mount.
Leica with its heavy price point politic was just able to give customer exceptionnal lenses, as it was somewhat a must have requirement for the price point.

Nowadays, you can get as good final resultwith far cheaper gear. Even the Nikon Z f/1.8 line is reaching the high qualities of some specialized and very expensive Zeiss lenses for example.
And all manufacturer have some halo products with unique look. Leica is no more alone in this ballpark.

So, today, Leica is even more an elitist system.

If you are looking for better final pic results than Canikon/Sony FX camera, don't buy a Leica, get a MF body, or adapt that lens that fullfill the look you are looking for.

I may seem to trash talk Leica, but we have to face it : Leica is no more the king of the hill, and we can find amazing lenses in all systems, from MFT, APS-C, FX, little and big MF.

Of, course,everybody is free to make his own choice. If you can cope with Leica prices, and want/learnt that way to take picture, it is one or the best choice to make. If you are just looking for final pic results, maybe Leica is no more the best choice.

Stuart Carver's picture

Fujifilm X-T4 if you read all the click bait spreading around surely

Jerome Brill's picture

Both the Leica Q2 and Sony RX1R II.

Yeah high mp full frame, but who spends that much to be stuck with one lens?

Charles Mercier's picture

Ever heard of Henri Cartier-Bresson? Almost exclusively shot with a standard 50mm lens.

Jerome Brill's picture

I haven't, although I was curious of what he would have paid for his first Leica I camera back then. It looks like he got into photography in 1931. It's difficult to find an exact price but I found two articles with prices ranging from $30-45 for the 1927 Leica I model he started with. That would be just under $700 today rounding up. That's still a far cry from the 3K+ prices.

However that Leica was expensive for even that time so I can see the premium being paid in the context of cameras now.

Sam Sims's picture

Back when Henri Cartier-Bresson purchased his first Leica in the 1930’s, Contax was the premium camera brand (before Canon and Nikon existed). Henri was just a photojournalist and a Leica with a 50mm lens was all he could afford.

Venson Stein's picture

I read an article where the author crunched the numbers- He said the price of a Leica in 1930s Germany was equal to two months average worker salary. The current monthly German wage is about 3750 Euros. x 2 = 7500 Euros. ($8500 in US Dollars) Price of a new Leica has stayed pretty much consistent since the early days.

Darren Loveland's picture

The Q2 is actually quite fantastic and versatile.

Adam Rubinstein's picture

A7riv - priced at $3500 new. Try to sell one used. No one wants them.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Not for no $3500. BH and Adorama selling them for $3100 new right now. And, eBay Buy It Now $2699 new.

Matt M's picture

I bought mine for student pricing at $2400. I sold it a week ago used for $2650. No complaints.

I don't know why you think no one wants them. It's the best stills camera out there, imo.

Adam Rubinstein's picture

That’s precisely why the prices have tanked. People are buying them at huge discounts under .edu programs and flooding the market to make a profit. Legal? Possibly. Ethical? No.

Chris Page's picture

I'm sure my Olympus gear has just devalued.

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